The Poinu Diary — Of Cold Evenings and Warm Memories

‘Hawai uri mapaan’ mightily blossoms amid the frigid chill and the icy grip of Poinu. Drenched in the ingtham ullen, Hungaam also offers its authentic flavour by this time of the year. Manipur Masala today presents The Poinu Diary—Of cold evenings and warm memories.

Poinu marks the main harvest season in Manipur. Blessed by Phou-Oibi, sacks of rice are delivered at our homes by the village folks who have toiled the entire year for a bountiful harvest.

Cold Poinu evenings are fondled by warm memories of good old childhood days. Sacks of rice laden bullock carts used to be quite a sight during those days. As kids, we had mischievously wanted to hop on those dragging carts and enjoy the ride down the street. The sight of the flickering lantern lit up on the san-gaari and the accompanying sound of sanarik still rings the memory bells.

Along came charoo with those huge sacks. Evenings were never the same for us. Una-waana, utek-waatek were collected to lit up a bonfire. As we enjoyed the evening bonfire after a full-fledged day playing games, we were never exhausted to learn the art of kabok pokpa out of those bundles of charoo.

The pre-dinner funga waari narrating session by our beloved abok or edhou made us super happy. Ah! Those were the days indeed.

Things are completely different in today’s Manipur. And as the evening transcends, life comes to a standstill here. It is not a surprising discovery that modern homes now have a temporary funga. Induction cookers, ovens, grillers, toasters etc. have adorned most of the kitchens nowadays. All thanks to technology, life has become much easier like never before in modern Manipur. The only recipe that is missing in modern Manipur’s menu, in this context, is a proper night life for our folks.

Night life is but a luxury that cannot be afforded by anyone here. Technology which has favoured our lives in many ways cannot even cure an ounce of fear that most of us have. Yes, it is but an open secret to all of us that fear comes along with darkness. I am completely numb to describe the nature of this fear. It does not mean I cannot cite down a number of reasons that have tinctured an incurable fear on our mind.

Earlier, when we were kids, the nature of fear was different. The fear of Churan-Thaaba was perhaps the only of its kind then. Elders used to scare us that Churaan-Thaaba would come carrying a big borakhao to pick up kids and would slice them into pieces and gorge on as their food. The irony is, such a thing never ever happened. As we grow up, the fear of that fabled Churan-Thaaba ultimately became mami-sami while we started encountering the real ones. In modern Manipur, there are different types of Churan-Thaaba — some are uniformed and some are not.

Defining the nature of a modern Churan-Thaaba is not a tough task in modern Manipur. Even a pre-nursery kid would easily sing a rhyme about him.

We at least, share a loving memory of that fabled Churan-Thaaba whose fear gripped us during our childhood days. The sight of a modern Churan-Thaaba not only makes us scared but nauseated too. And the saddest part is there are too many of them almost everywhere.

By the way, kumsi’s Poinu has been quite a quiet month as compared to last year’s. I wish Waakching, Phairen and Lamtaa also pass on in the same manner. As we fondle warm memories of cold Poinu evenings, let us also pray for the wellbeing of all the Churan-Thaaba. May they get well soon. May our state become at least a leiheiba lamdam!

This article was published on 22 Dec 2013

Of Imphal and Its Matam Matamgi Waafam

Imphal town has now two Shamumakhongs to flaunt—the one at Khwairamband Keithel and the recently built piece at the Bheigyachandra Open Air Theatre complex. Meanwhile, my own leikai has two community halls to flaunt too.

Manipur Masala presents the Imphal town and its matam matamgi waafam—a brief take on some irredeemable norms, some overtly visible, some covert, at various localities across the city.

The other day, out of curiosity, I asked a nephew, ‘Nang swa saaanaba heibra’. He replied, ‘Swa haisibu keino nene’.

I had to explain the rules and regulations of playing swa. I did share my experience of playing the game when we were kids. He was impressive with my explanation; it was obvious from how he was listening. He continued, ‘Nene swa si computer dei download touraga saanaba yagadro?’

I was quite amused by his innocent question but I was equally disturbed. I could not help greet myself — welcome to modern Manipur — where the kids no more play at the leikaigi lampak. Imphal Talkies’ Lullaby started humming as the background music on my mind and I sang along: ‘Te te tenawa kangleipaaki tenewa angaangna moonlaga tenwaana haraowi, uuuu... Una saaba nongmeini mana pangba makhoini’.

During our angaang oiringei days, we used to play all sorts of local games such as swa, u-paibi, amangbi, langri-taang and so on. Most of the kids in Imphal do not play these games anymore. What could be the reason for their indifference towards the local games?

Is it the rising trend of constructing community halls in each and every leikai which do not spare the leikaigi lampak where kids can play? Is it the fear psychosis on parents’ minds that their kids may be kidnapped while playing at a lampak, which eventually forbid their children from playing at the lampak? Is it the new-age syndrome of hainingai leitana chaokhatlaba Manipur? Obviously, the questions are varied though we have the same answer: ‘Khangde tourisey’.

Everybody can get the feel for the rising trend of using mobile phones and computers aka internet in our society. For instance, from school-going kids to keithel-fambi eney endol and aboks, having a mobile phone is a must these days. However, when it comes to the construction of more than two community halls in a single leikai, I have my own indigestive opinion. Of course, having a community hall in a locality is a must and it offers many benefits to many families in a leikai.

In a state like ours where thoudok-waathok and ushop-mela are frequently observed throughout the year, a community hall serves multiple benefits especially to those who do not have a proper shumaang. Also with the rising cost of Maantop khanba, community halls are an affordable option for many. However, having a single community hall in a leikai is enough. There is no logic behind constructing two community halls in a single leikai. Maybe the contractors have different opinions but nothing is certain these days.

Well, I have observed another trend in which one has to destroy something to build something else. A sign of modernity? Such is the case of sambhals being replaced by chekpals. Earlier, when we were kids, a sambhal was created just to fence an ingkhol from shaa-sun. In modern Manipur, especially in and around Imphal, sambhals are becoming cousins of the dinosaurs; meanwhile the chekpals are getting taller and taller each day. Besides the ingkhol khopchinbagi khatnaba and mindless nungsinadaba nature in the keirol-leikai, constructing a wall also means securing one’s family from miscreants (read extortionists whose population keep rising at an alarming rate).

As the walls get thickened with leikhom-leinaang over the years, memories of good old childhood days are also eventually fading away. We had our days of singju suraga chanaba, nungthilda chara waanminaba and leikai koinaba. Meanwhile for modern kids, computer games and cartoon characters are building a Random Access Memory on their mind.

I am not surprised by the very fact that most of my nephews and nieces do not have any idea about the local games we used to play as kids. At times, I wonder if I should start taking free tuition for kids to tincture innocent memories on their minds about their childhood days. Would not it be something innovative, eh?

This article was published on 8 Dec 2013
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